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Yelp posts smaller-than-expected loss; CFO to step down

Consumer review website operator Yelp Inc reported a smaller-than-estimated loss on Monday, but its shares slumped 12 percent, swept up in a broader selloff in the technology sector.The company said its results were released ahead of schedule due to a vendor error by PR Newswire, leading to a spike in volatility in its shares.Yelp also said Chief Financial Officer Rob Krolik would step down. Krolik, who joined the company in 2011, will continue in his current role till Dec. 15, 2016, or until a replacement is hired, the company said in a statement.Yelp's revenue rose about 40 percent in the fourth quarter, topping analysts' estimates, helped by the strength in its advertising business and a rise in mobile usage.Local advertising accounts in the quarter rose 32 percent to about 111,000, which was in line with estimates from market research firm FactSet StreetAccount. The San Francisco-based company has been trying to expand outside the United States and diversify into services such as restaurant bookings, event management and payments to counter increasing competition.Yelp competes with OpenTable in the restaurants booking business and Angie's List Inc in the listings business. In December, Facebook Inc quietly debuted a feature that helps users find local businesses based on customer reviews that could emerge as a strong competitor.The company said it expected to report net revenue of $154 million-$157 million in the first quarter, largely above the $154.4 million estimated by the analysts. Yelp reported a net loss of $22.2 million, or 29 cents per share, attributable to common stockholders for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $32.7 million, or 42 cents per share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, the company posted a loss of 2 cents per share, while analysts were expecting a loss of 3 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue rose to $153.7 million from $109.9 million. Analysts had expected revenue of $152.4 million for the quarter.Yelp's shares were down 11.5 percent at $16.02 in afternoon trading on Monday. They fell as much as 15 percent in early session, touching a more than three year low of $15.50.(This version of the story corrects day of week to Monday instead of Wednesday, last paragraph) (Reporting by Alan John Koshy and Lehar Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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India says yes to net neutrality, no to Facebook's Free Basics

In a significant move, India's telecom regulator has banned the differential pricing for different kinds of data according to the principles of net neutrality. This implies that zero-rating initiatives like Facebook's Free Basics platform, which offers a small set of services free of cost, will not be allowed in the country. See also: India’s telecom regulator accuses Facebook of running an 'orchestrated opinion poll' for Free Basics “Given that a majority of the population are yet to be connected to the Internet, allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be equivalent of letting TSPs (telecom service providers) shape the users’ Internet experience,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in its release. Its new set of regulations bars any service provider from offering or charging discriminatory tariffs on the basis of content and and imposes a fine of Rs 50,000 ($735) per day on violators. "While formulating the regulations, the authority has largely been guided by the principles of net neutrality seeking to ensure that customers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the Internet," TRAI said in its statement. However, it has exempted reduced tariff plans in times of emergency. The order concluded TRAI's consultation paper issued on Dec. 9, 2015, which invited stakeholders to send their views on the differential pricing of different content, until Jan. 14, 2016. This period saw a massive advertising campaign by Facebook to promote Free Basics, which was countered by a volunteer-led coalition called Save the Internet, that was supported by major Indian startups. Last month, TRAI also criticised Facebook's lobbying campaign as a "crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll." Great to see TRAI backing #NetNeutrality! Let's keep the Internet free and independent. — Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) February 8, 2016 This was Facebooks Waterloo in India. It lost respect in tech community, showed its ignorance and arrogance https://t.co/JFGOr2WblS — Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa) February 8, 2016 Well TRAI'ed Mark Zuckerberg. Hard Luck #NetNeutrality — Joy (@Joydas) February 8, 2016 Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments. window._msla=window.loadScriptAsync||function(src,id){if(document.getElementById(id))return;var js=document.createElement('script');js.id=id;js.src=src;document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0].parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}; _msla("//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js","twitter_jssdk");

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Italian consortium set to win giant Chile telescope contract

SANTIAGO An Italian consortium, including construction company Astaldi Spa, is close to securing a contract to build the world's largest telescope in the Chilean desert, project owner the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said on Thursday.The ESO said its finance committee had agreed to enter into final discussions with the consortium, which was the winning bidder to design, manufacture, transport and build the main dome and structure for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).The consortium includes major Italian builder Cimolai and subcontractor the EIE Group, as well as Astaldi.The ESO said in a statement that it hoped to sign the contract by May but did not give further details. It has said previously that building the E-ELT would cost around $1.2 billion (1.1 billion euros) at 2012 prices. The E-ELT will have a primary mirror 43 yards (39 meters) in diameter, which under current plans would make it by far the biggest telescope in operation worldwide when it begins observations in the mid-2020s.Chile's clear desert skies have made it a prime location for stargazers and a new generation of giant telescopes at various stages of planning and construction. These include the Giant Magellan Telescope, which should briefly be the world's largest in the early 2020s before being overtaken by the E-ELT. The E-ELT's goals include observations of the atmosphere around rocky exoplanets, which may yield signs of extraterrestrial life. The massive telescope should also be able to look back at the earliest moments after the Big Bang and help answer questions related to the expansion of the universe. (Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Italian consortium set to win giant Chile telescope contract

SANTIAGO An Italian consortium, including construction company Astaldi Spa, is close to securing a contract to build the world's largest telescope in the Chilean desert, project owner the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said on Thursday.The ESO said its finance committee had agreed to enter into final discussions with the consortium, which was the winning bidder to design, manufacture, transport and build the main dome and structure for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).The consortium includes major Italian builder Cimolai and subcontractor the EIE Group, as well as Astaldi.The ESO said in a statement that it hoped to sign the contract by May but did not give further details. It has said previously that building the E-ELT would cost around $1.2 billion (1.1 billion euros) at 2012 prices. The E-ELT will have a primary mirror 43 yards (39 meters) in diameter, which under current plans would make it by far the biggest telescope in operation worldwide when it begins observations in the mid-2020s.Chile's clear desert skies have made it a prime location for stargazers and a new generation of giant telescopes at various stages of planning and construction. These include the Giant Magellan Telescope, which should briefly be the world's largest in the early 2020s before being overtaken by the E-ELT. The E-ELT's goals include observations of the atmosphere around rocky exoplanets, which may yield signs of extraterrestrial life. The massive telescope should also be able to look back at the earliest moments after the Big Bang and help answer questions related to the expansion of the universe. (Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Showdown in Europe over privacy has U.S. firms ducking for cover

FRANKFURT The free flow of data across the Atlantic, the lifeblood of modern business dealings, faces an uncertain future, despite a belated, high-level deal between European and U.S. officials this week.Restive regulators in Europe are gearing up to enforce tough privacy laws and further court challenges await, activists say.The breakdown of the main framework for providing legal cover for cross-border data transfers has companies large and small racing to find workable alternatives. These range from stricter data-handling policies to new technologies or paying to lease datcenters based in Europe.Companies, facing renewed threats by privacy regulators, find themselves on legal thin ice with many of the existing procedures for managing cross-border data flows, experts say.Google, Facebook and other big Internet services which transfer mountains of data globally are likely to be the first targets in any regulatory crackdown, they said.Hailed as a "Privacy Shield" by European Union and U.S. negotiators who reached the new cross-border data sharing agreement, the deal faces a labyrinthine approval process before the new rules have any chance of coming into force. "Once it becomes available, businesses will want to be cautious about signing up to Privacy Shield given the potential legal challenges that special interest groups have already suggested they will be considering," cautioned Marc Dautlich, a partner with Pinsent Masons in London. TOUGH ON PRIVACYCross-border data transfers are used in many industries for sharing employee information, when consumer data is shared to complete credit card, travel or e-commerce transactions, or to target advertising based on customer preferences. Since 2000, up to 4,500 U.S. companies had come to count on a simple set of rules, dubbed Safe Harbour, allowing them to self-certify they complied with privacy principles for personal data transfers from Europe to the United States. Many other firms, especially fast-growing start-ups, did nothing to comply. In October, the European Court of Justice threw out Safe Harbour. In a landmark decision, it ruled the mechanism provided inadequate protections under European privacy laws against the sorts of spying by U.S. intelligence agencies revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. Independent-minded national privacy regulators say they need to know more details about the so-called "Privacy Shield" but many openly doubt the agreement can bridge the gulf between the two continents' privacy practices. "Transfers to the U.S. cannot take place on the basis of the invalidated Safe Harbour decision. EU data protection authorities will therefore deal with related cases and complaints on a case-by-case basis," Europe's national privacy regulators said in a joint statement on Wednesday.The data commission for Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's most northern state, said it was prepared to take action on national data protection rules if citizens file complaints. The regulator warned in October that firms found in violation of German data protection rules could face fines up to 300,000 euros ($335,000). Across the region, multi-million euro fines could be imposed on offenders and commercial transfers of personal data prohibited, privacy experts say. SEARCHING FOR OPTIONS An alternative form of legal compliance offered by the EU are "standard contact clauses", or "model contracts", which require companies to spell out exactly what data is being transferred to what U.S. companies and the measures to be taken to ensure compliance with European privacy law.Some national data authorities offer what is known as "binding corporate rules" (BCRs), which companies mostly use for cross-border employee data transfers inside their organizations. But BCRs can take up to 12-18 months to be formalized, while model contracts can take days or weeks.However, many regulators and privacy experts say that the same high court ruling that struck down Safe Harbour may also render model contracts and BCRs invalid, making them only a temporary safe haven for meeting European rules.Using technology to keep data within Europe's borders is a longer term, if pricier solution. Leasing datacenters based in Europe rather than relying on centralized U.S. servers has started to take off over the past year or two.That's an approach huge cloud-based software companies Microsoft and Amazon.com and specialist datacenter providers have begun offering to customers to meet a patchwork of data residency requirements in Europe. U.S. file-sharing company Syncplicity has introduced software that keeps sensitive corporate data created in Europe within the region, offering new ways to store data in the cloud locally. ($1 = 0.8932 euros) (Editing by Keith Weir)

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